Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Choices, Chances, Changes

I have decided that if I am going to overcome my feelings of bitterness and resentment, I need to focus on the positive things in my life rather than on the negative events of the past.  I have spent a part of each day recently reading a devotion and praying (something I had gotten away from during the past few months).  In my prayers I have realized how much I have to be thankful for ... my family, good friends, a home, a secure job.  I have a wonderful son who has shown me recently that he truly wants me to move on with my life and be happy.  I still have both of my parents and a grandmother who support me in everything I do and a granddaughter that brings laughter every time she is around.  I have friends who have listened to me, cried with me, stood by me, and seen me through the toughest times in my life.  I have also had some new people come into my life who have quickly become good friends with which I've been able to share happy times and make new memories.  I am close to completing my specialist's degree in elementary education, and I recently received a grant that is going to equip my classroom with the newest technology for the upcoming school year.  I realize that I have a very busy and hopefully happy future to look forward to.

Just as my prayers have helped me see what I have to be thankful for, the devotions I've been reading have reminded me of what I knew but had forgotten for a while ... I am not alone.  I have come across devotions on anxiety, worry, stress, fear, forgiveness, hope, patience, relationships, and trusting God just when I seemed to need them the most.  Today's devotion was "Believe in the light" (John 12:36), and a part of it said "I realized God had been hovering near, feeling my pain ready to embrace me with a hug.  All I had to do was pay attention.  All I needed to do was listen.  And with Him by my side, I could pick myself up and feel my way to the light." 

In an effort to "pick myself up" I've decided it's time to be open to new people, new things, and new relationships in my life.  I built a wall around myself three years ago as a means of survival, and I've kept it there ever since.  But regardless of how scary it may be, I no longer want to keep myself and my feelings closed off in an effort to avoid future hurt and pain.  I realize now that while keeping the hurt and the pain out, I was also keeping the happiness, joy, and love out.  The lyrics of a Lady Antebellum song describe perfectly how I feel now ... "Seems like I was walking in the wrong direction.  I barely recognize my own reflection.  Seems I've been playing on the safe side, building walls around my heart to save me ... but it's time for me to let it go ... I'm ready to feel now.  No longer am I afraid of the fall down.  It must be time to move on now without the fear of how it might end." 

Life is about taking chances.  Some of those chances may lead to mistakes and heartache, but some of them will also lead to triumphs and happiness.  We cannot predict or plan how our life will turn out, and I've learned that we have to take the bad with the good.  But if we never take a chance at all things will always stay the same, and we will never know what we might be missing.  Choices, Chances, Changes - You must make a Choice to take a Chance or your life will never Change (author unknown).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What are the Chances?

In trying to deal with my bitterness and resentment, I've been looking for things I can read on the subject.  Last night I found a devotional book Prayers and Promises for Women in the drawer of my nightstand.  I think my mother gave it to me sometime during the last three years, but I guess I hadn't read much from it because it still looked and felt new.  It's just a small paperback book, not of daily devotions but of devotions on specific topics.  I didn't look in the table of contents before opening the book.  I just opened it to where it seemed to want to naturally fall.  The topic it opened to was forgiveness, and the Bible verse at the top of the page was the same one I put in my "Blindsided" entry a few days ago ... Ephesians 4:32 ... And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.  What are the chances that this little book would open to the exact topic that I needed to read about?

As I read the devotion that followed the Bible verse, I couldn't help but cry because it fit so perfectly with how I was feeling.  The second paragraph said, "If, in your heart, you hold bitterness against even a single person, forgive. If there exists even one person, alive or dead, whom you have not forgiven, follow God's commandment and His will for your life: forgive.  If you are embittered against yourself for some past mistake or shortcoming, forgive. Then, to the best of your abilities, forget.  And move one.  Bitterness and regret are not part of God's plan for your life.  Forgiveness is."  I realized something new as I read this - I not only feel bitterness toward Eddie for what he did, I also feel bitterness toward myself for what I wasn't able to do.

I know in my head that I did everything I could to help Eddie with his alcoholism, but in my heart I still feel there was something more I could/should have done.  I thought I had overcome these feelings of guilt and of questioning myself about what I did or didn't do, but I guess they're not completely gone after all.  Regardless of how much I've read or the amount of counseling I've received, I still can't believe that I didn't see warning signs leading up to his suicide.  Even now, three years later, I still go back over the days and weeks before his death wondering what I missed and what I could have said or done differently.  I know looking back serves no purpose.  I can't change the past.  I can't undo what's already been done.  But as much as I know these things, I also know that I'm still carrying around a feeling of responsibility inside of me for what I wasn't able to do.

"He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass." -Corrie ten Boom

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Promise of a New Beginning

Today was Father's Day, and I experienced those feelings of bitterness and resentment very strongly because Eddie is not here for Trey.  This is the fourth Father's Day that Trey has gone through without his dad.  I know there are many sons and daughters who no longer have their fathers for various reasons.  If Eddie had died under different circumstances, I probably wouldn't be bitter or resent his not being here (at least not as much).  But because of the way he died, I was filled with negative feelings toward him today.  I know that Trey is an adult now (he's almost 28), and he had his father in his life longer than a lot of people do.  But regardless of a person's age, I think we always need the love, support, and guidance of our parents.  Even though we know it's not possible, we expect them to always be here for us.  Eddie took that away from Trey, and I'm having a very difficult time forgiving him for that.  Trey is a father himself now, and though I think he's doing a wonderful job, I know he wishes he had a father in his life to turn to for advice now and then.

In an effort to start dealing with my bitterness and resentment, I went to the cemetery today and took a bouquet of yellow roses.  I read somewhere that yellow roses represent the promise of a new beginning.  The color yellow is associated with the sun which is a source of light and warmth.  The sun is integral to life on Earth and its color holds many positive connotations.  I thought this would be a good way for me to make a new beginning.  While at the cemetery I admitted to God and to Eddie that I am experiencing feelings of bitterness.  I asked God to forgive me for these feelings and to help me find a way to get past them.  I also asked God to forgive Eddie for what he did that resulted in so much hurt and heartache for everyone who knew and loved him.  Finally I asked Eddie for his blessing on my efforts to move forward with my life.

I know these feelings aren't going to go away overnight.  As with everything else I've dealt with, it's going to take time, effort, and patience.  I wish I could just snap my fingers and make all of the bad feelings disappear, but I know that's not possible.  I made a start today, and that's what matters.  I'm sure I won't feel quite as bitter tomorrow because it will just be another day with no special meaning like today.  However, there are other special days coming in the next few weeks - Emily's 6th birthday and Trey's 28th birthday.  I'm sure I can expect to feel some bitterness that Eddie isn't here to share these special days, but hopefully the feelings won't be quite as strong as they were today.

A Prayer for Peace and Patience

God, teach me to be patient, teach me to go slow.
Teach me how to wait on You
when my way I do not know.
Teach me sweet forbearance,
when things do not go right,
So I remain unruffled when others grow uptight.
Teach me how to quiet my racing rising heart,
So I might hear the answer You are trying to impart.
Teach me to let go, dear God,
and pray undisturbed until
My heart is filled with inner peace
and I learn to know Your will.

Helen Steiner Rice

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Wow ... I wasn't expecting this and certainly wasn't in any way prepared for it.  During the past month I've written about acceptance and forgiveness, and I truly meant everything I said.  I know that I've accepted Eddie's death and the manner in which he died.  I have made great strides in forgiving him for both his alcoholism and suicide.  I guess my forgiveness isn't 100% complete though.  While talking with someone this past week I was surprised to realize the feelings of bitterness and resentment I have buried inside.  My reaction to some of the things that were said hit me like a ton of bricks.  I've experienced periods of anger over the past three years and still have an occasional angry thought even now.  But I honestly didn't know how much I still resent what Eddie put not only me, but Trey and everyone else, through.  So I apparently still have work to do - I have to deal with and get rid of this bitterness before it becomes something I can't let go of.  "Hurt leads to bitterness, bitterness to anger, travel too far that road and the way is lost." -Terry Brooks

I know that bitterness is an irrational, destructive emotion.  It is the result of being hurt or disappointed by a person or by circumstances, and it becomes worse when we cannot confront who or what caused it.  It is not visible like anger but is an underlying problem that dwells on the inside.  The Bible describes bitterness as a root and strongly warns against letting it take hold ("See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:15).  A root is a source that fuels things on the surface.  The root of bitterness is hidden in the heart and even in the soul and if left untreated can feed other negative emotions.  When we hold these feelings inside they fester and grow.  Although it is hidden deep inside, bitterness can spread easily and have an effect on everything we think, say, and do.  "Carrying a grudge is a loser's game. It is the ultimate frustration because it leaves you with more pain than you had in the first place." -Lewis B. Smedes

Bitterness comes from not completely forgiving the person or the circumstances that hurt us.  But no person or event can make us bitter.  It is our attitude that makes us bitter because we choose to respond in a bitter way.  I allowed the trauma of Eddie's alcoholism and subsequent suicide to get to me and without realizing it let the roots of bitterness and resentment be planted inside of me.  Those feelings have slowly grown over time and are just now reaching the surface.  In order to begin getting rid of these pent up negative emotions I have to admit they exist then find a way to cut off and remove the root.  In my reading I found two steps necessary to get started with this "removal" - admit to God that the bitterness is wrong and pray for the one (Eddie) that I have bitterness against ("And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:25, 26).  I have to set a goal to be free of bitterness and resentment and accomplish it through prayer, will, and desire.  I will make an effort to count my blessings, guard my thoughts, resist when negative ones try to enter, and only think about positive things.  It wont be easy, but as with everything else I will be able to do it in time.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:31, 32

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Memories that Last a Lifetime

Everyone has their favorite place to go for a vacation - the mountains, the desert, amusement parks, resorts, spas, even other countries.  All of these are unique and special in their own way.  I'm sure they all offer fun and excitement in different forms.  But for me there is no better place in the world than the beach for escape and relaxation.  There is something about the ocean with the sight and sound of the waves that creates a sense of peace and calm within me.  When I'm there I feel I can cast out all of my problems and worries, then watch them wash away with the tide.  The sun, the sand, and the water have a healing effect on both my mind and my heart.  I always leave the beach with a renewed hope and a feeling of somehow being cleansed.  It is a powerful place that is and always has been a form of therapy for me.  "The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea." -Isak Dinesen

My trips to the beach began as family vacations when I was a small child.  I remember going to Daytona Beach with my parents and grandparents.  My fondest memories of those trips are of riding the ferris wheel, playing putt-putt and skeeball, and watching saltwater taffy being made at the candy shop on the boardwalk.  I also remember my grandfather sitting by the pool or the beach wearing shorts that went down to his knees, socks up to his mid-calf, and tennis shoes.  I remember that everyone used a suntan lotion called No-Ad because it came in huge quantities and was cheap.  I remember swimming in the motel pool until I was so tired I could hardly stand up and walking down the sidewalk to eat at the Steak-n-Shake.  "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." -Jacques Cousteau

My trips to the beach continued into my teen years when my mother would take one (or more) of my friends and me to Jekyll Island for the day.  We always bought a huge jar of dill pickles, ate them on the way, then drank the juice.  We left in the morning, usually took a lunch with us, spent the day at the beach, then drove back home.  Sometimes we would visit the historical homes in the area, but mainly we sunbathed, played in the sand, and swam in the ocean.  I didn't realize then how special those days were, but they made a lasting impression on me.  "Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone." -Anonymous

When I was old enough, after high school and into college, I went to the beach with my friends.  We did what all teenagers and young adults do when they're away from home - tried to act like we were much older than we actually were!  Once I was married and Trey came along, we started our own family trips to the beach.  Over the years we settled into a yearly trip to Panama City where we made new friends who are a part of my memories now.  These trips continue today, and Emily is now going with us.  My memories of these family trips are of first watching Trey and his friends play and have fun and now of watching Emily do the same things in the same place.  Together we have created memories riding go-carts, having low-country boils, riding the banana boat, and doing karaoke on the deck.  "We are tied to the ocean.  And when we go back to the sea - whether it is to sail or to watch it - we are going back from whence we came." -JFK

During all of these trips I have seen the ocean and the beach hundreds of times.  I have witnessed many sunsets, sunrises, full moons, and storms.  But I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of it all or at the joy I feel every time I am there.  I recently returned from another trip to the beach where I experienced all of the same feelings of peace, calm, hope, and a renewal of spirit.  I sat and watched the sun set over the ocean and was in awe of the unbelievable picture it created.  At that last moment when the sun seems to disappear into the ocean it's as if the horizon catches on fire as the sky is filled with a burst of yellow, orange, and red.  Later that same night, I sat on the beach and watched a gorgeous full moon rising in the opposite direction.  It lit up the entire beach and created shimmers and sparkles across the ocean that looked like stars dancing on the water.  In those two moments it was impossible for me to comprehend that some people don't believe in God, because only He could create something so beautiful and amazing that it brings tears to your eyes.   "He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness." Job 26:10